Amon, Amoun, Amen
The depiction of Amun is similar to that of a pharaoh; however, his skin is usually shown as blue. His crown is made up of two plumes with seven tiers. It is believed these two plumes represent both Upper and Lower Egypt. In one hand he can be seen holding a scepter, while in the other hand he is shown holding an Ankh—the symbol of life. There are other forms where he is shown with curved horns, and yet in others he is depicted as a man with the head of a frog.
This god’s family background is inconsistent due to when the information was collected and the time period that it was recorded. During the 5th and 6th Dynasties in the Pyramid Texts, Amun’s counterpart is Amonet. During the New Kingdom, his consort was Mut and through their union they had a son named Khonsu (Lunar God).
Amun’s Rise to Popularity
Amun is one of Egypt’s primitive gods and has been documented throughout most of Ancient Egypt. The Pyramid Texts, written in the Old Kingdom, first mention him as the protector of the gods; his shadow is like an umbrella that protects them. During this time, Amun had no physical form as he was only known as an invisible force. His name means “hidden.” Neither the Egyptians, nor the gods, knew what he looked like as he was a mysterious figure that was always present.
According to the cult of Hermopolis, Amun was part of the Ogdoad, which was comprised of eight gods. Each god had their own counterpart making four pairs. Together the pairs formed a primordial mass which hatched the sun god; thus, it was believed that this is where life began. Other cults insisted he created himself; an impossible task that other gods could not achieve. Depending on the dynasty or the cities involved, the stories varied as to how he came to be. Though Amun was mentioned in the creation of life, in many cults he was not popular until a later point in time.
His dominance over the other gods started to emerge by the Middle Kingdom as Amun was recorded to be the creator of all the gods; however, this status diminished as Egypt was invaded by foreign invaders known as the Hyksos (Asiatics). During this era of turmoil, Amun remained a local deity worshiped in Thebes. It was not until the Hyksos had been driven out by Ahmose I and the start of a new time era (New Kingdom) had begun, that Amun became glorified and was made a main deity in Egypt.
At one point, Amun had became so popular in the New Kingdom that it is safe to say his cult almost become monotheistic—though other gods were still worshiped. His presence was renowned by the pharaohs, priests, and citizens. Thebes became a focal point for the god and his persona was continually updated to show the pharaohs’ devotion to Amun. During Amun’s popularly, Egypt was not at war and wealth was abundant. Because of these fruitful times, the pharaohs used this abundant wealth to create and enhance Amuns’ temples; thereby, siphoning a great deal of Egypt’s wealth.
Thebes, Amun’s Cult Center
Thebes was the main city devoted to Amun, but it had not always been this way. Before Amun became popular, the city was nothing more than a trading post and had little importance. It was not until the end of the Second Intermediate Period, after the Hyksos had been driven out, that Thebes become the focal point for the god as well as Egypt’s capital.
Thereafter, the capital was continually beautified and many monuments, temples, and shrines were constructed to honor the god. Eventually, Akhenaten and his religious movement forced many followers to abandon Thebes and the worship of Amun for his new God – the Aten. A new capital was then built in a desolate location called Tell-el Amarna.
Upon the death of Akhenaten, his son Tutankhamun tried to restore the old ways of Amun; however, it was not until Horemheb’s rule that full devotion returned back to Amun. Eventually the capital became less popular and as the Ramessids came into power, they moved Egypt’s capital to Avaris. They, however, continued to worship Amun, along with other gods. This continual worship of Amun, held the god as an important deity throughout Egypt.
Amun’s Influence on People, Pharaohs, and Priests.
It’s no doubt that Amun’s cult was popular. It had become such a thriving religious conviction that many priests gained political power though Amun as they ran the temples devoted to this god. The temples alone were given a great deal of funds because of the need to maintain and expand them. This shift of funds to maintain and expand these temples also elevated the priests’ power. In addition, this money allowed these priests to gain almost as much political and economic power as the ruling royal families.
The pharaohs too made sure to showcase their connection to Amun. They held a yearly celebration known as the Opet Festival. During this festival, sometimes lasting for days on end, many reenactments were demonstrated showcasing the king as an earthly incarnation of Amun. This reenactment solidified the kings’ stance as the supreme ruler and a divine being; thus, enforcing their intimacy with the god. Queen Hatshepsut clearly used propaganda as a means to maintain her power as a pharaoh. Upon her temple walls in Del-el Bahri, there is a depiction showing Amun as Hatshepsut’s father.
To the people of Egypt, Amun was accessible and was seen as the defender of the poor. He was highly admired and was perhaps a source of joy to those who worshiped him. Those who traveled, called upon his name to get protection as they headed on their journey.